You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2022.

Almost 40 years ago, I received a gift of shoes from a grieving mother—shoes I never had the heart to wear. The thought that kept running through my head at the time was “I can’t fill Jenne’s shoes.” No, but I know now that her mom wanted me to honor her by walking in her shoes. Not to be her, but to show my love for her by wearing something she, too, had worn.

I’m much older now and have said goodbye to many significant people since then—but Jenne was one of my first goodbyes, and I didn’t yet understand much about grieving.

When my father died, I brought home his hiking boots—the ones he thought he needed for his new life in the mountains. But as he was rather the same person in the mountains as he had been on the plains, those boots didn’t get much use. From him that is. I, on the other hand, wore them out. By then, I realized that wearing someone’s shoes was a way to keep someone walking with me just a little longer. It was my goal to take my father to all sorts of summits and vistas and show him what you can’t really see from a car. I liked to think about him when I hiked in those boots that are long gone—though not so long gone as he is after these almost 20 years.

My mom’s feet were smaller than mine are, so I shared her shoes (including her hiking boots, which she did use on a few trails) with others. From her, I ended up with socks I bought for her to wear in her care center. If you’ve had a loved one living in such a place, you know the drill—you have to mark the name on all their clothes and shoes. So, after 11 years now, I’m down to a pair or two of dark socks with “Elda” painted on the bottoms (in Wite-Out) that still make me smile.

And, when I got a text last summer from my nephew’s wife asking whether I had shared a shoe size with my late sister-in-law, I remembered all those trips together to the outlet mall when we could never find size 9 ½ shoes—for either one of us. Yes—I shared her size.

Oh, did she have shoes—and I couldn’t even fit in all her shoes. These are good quality shoes, the kinds you can wear for working on your feet or walking while shopping. The first trip I took her on was up to Estes Park, CO, where we used to meet when my parents lived there. And just like back in those days, we ended up in the grocery store gathering picnic supplies so we could eat outside, and we walked around town shopping and shopping—just like she would have done. Then when day was almost done, I walked her beside the lakeshore where we left behind part of her and her son. What a hard walk that was.

But for much of this winter I have practically lived in her Bearpaw boots. It’s hard not to think of her as I go about my life—knowing that I get to walk while she is done with that journey.

It’s that thought that has inspired me to keep wearing my mask when so many are done with them. I consider my masks a way to honor her—by protecting others who might be vulnerable as she was. I don’t know when I will stop with the masks—even though the CDC today said I am pretty much free to do so. What I know is that I have so many shoes to walk in—because she didn’t get to do so. And not only did she die, but she did so in a protracted, horrible way. So, I hesitate to change my habits yet.

Here we are a year later—a year after that morning when my brother’s phone call came way too early to be good news. She’s still gone. Every time my brother sends me a card with only his name on the address label, my breath catches.

The world is emptier for her absence. It’s cliché to say, but she was one in a million—and one in 947,417 of those lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. (according to Johns Hopkins, as of today, February 25, 2022). I carry my memories of her in my heart—and right on down to my feet.

Walk on.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 304 other subscribers

Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012